Listening to what students themselves have to say about their education is an important part of high-quality G&T provision. Year 8 pupil, Beth Hancox outlines her thoughts on the qualities of a good teacher for gifted and talented students
Different teachers can be good in different ways, depending on their method of teaching and the types of pupils they teach. One teacher may be better suited to teaching pupils who struggle with certain subjects and another might be great at working with children who thrive on their subject and do really well in it.
First, any pupil in the class can become uninterested in a lesson if everyone else is fidgeting or muttering. An average teacher can usually keep a class attentive and under control but not necessarily make them interested in the subject that they are being taught. A good teacher (especially for gifted and talented students) can keep a class attentive by making sure that they enjoy the lesson. When students are interested, they automatically become quiet so they can learn as much as possible about the subject. This makes working much easier.
Secondly, teachers are told which students are in the G&T category so they can set them harder work. It might also mean setting extensions once the work has been completed. An average teacher will have enough work for the class, but have it all at the same difficulty. A good teacher knows that giving a pupil the same difficulty of work through the lesson will not stretch him/her.
Although this article is based on gifted and talented students, this third point is a basic thing for teachers. The problem with classes that can’t be controlled is that there is no respect for the teacher or fear of consequences. Without this, a lesson is pointless. I have brought this up because if a class is very disruptive it can seriously affect the learning in that certain subject. I base this on myself because I love a certain subject (I will not name names) but because the class is not kept under control, I don’t look forward to the lesson as it can sometimes be complete chaos. An average teacher earns respect through being strict; a good teacher earns it by letting the class know who’s boss but also by getting the class to like them. A laugh is allowed but it shouldn’t go too far. If the pupils like the teacher then they will behave. It seems simple enough but it is occasionally overlooked with disastrous consequences for people’s learning.
Fourthly, a geography teacher at my school once gave us a questionnaire to complete which was to find out whether we were visual, auditory or physical learners*. A couple of lessons after that, we were given three different tasks in the class which were either auditory, visual or physical exercises and had to complete them within the lesson. It was all teaching the same thing, but it was really helpful as we knew who was in each group and found it more enjoyable. We all had to take part in each one so that everyone was stretched. This was good fun and also made us think harder than usual. This is what all good teachers should do.
Some pupils groan at the mention of ‘homework’ but most gifted and talented students I have spoken to agree with me and (as long as it can be done in the time provided) enjoy having homework to do. Researching and typing up projects and essays on the computer really appeals to me. I enjoy doing it and being proud of my work when it is complete. Knowing how much care I have taken with it really gives me a nice feeling inside (especially when the teacher acknowledges it too!). An average teacher might give everyone the same amount of homework, as towards the end of the lesson (when it might have slipped their mind), they don’t have time to give anything else. A good teacher however, would find tasks that were a little bit harder (maybe work for the year above) and assign them to gifted and talented students, and to anyone else who was interested. One of the things that I thrive on is being set extra challenges (such as this!) that can be done at my leisure (or to a deadline).
My final point is about targets. I think that targets are a brilliant idea as pupils know what is expected of them and have something to aim for. It obviously has to be realistic (you can’t tell a Level 3 pupil to aim for a Level 8 straight away!) but as I have found with the school I attend, aiming higher is a ticket to success. An average teacher might set a target that would stretch the pupils but once they had achieved that target, might not push them any further. A good teacher however, as soon as they saw the target had been reached, would set them another, higher (but still realistic) target.
Beth Hancox, Year 8